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Derby Lane gets pleasant surprise as season leaves track in black

ST. PETERSBURG — It was a dandy season for the greyhound track on Gandy Boulevard. For the first time in four years, Derby Lane finished with a black bottom line.

All-source handle: Up.

Attendance: Up.

Poker: Up.

"We were very pleased with our year," said track president and chairman of the board Vey Weaver. "The tremendous weather and an improving economy go hand in hand. We got almost 20,000 more people here, and the people that we got had more money to spend."

The 87th season at Derby Lane ended June 30. It was sparked by a 3.33 percent rise in all-source handle over the previous year at $110,465,371 for 416 performances. The driving force was a 6.78 percent jump in interstate wagering ($58,029,609).

Live on-track handle ($21,383,856) and intrastate wagering ($31,051,907) were flat, but both would have seen gains had two performances not been canceled last week because of Tropical Storm Debby. Guest simulcast wagering (non-Derby Lane dogs, thoroughbreds, standardbreds and jai alai) also was flat at $54,324,985.

"It was so surprising to be up as much as we were, especially in the tourist season months," Weaver, 57, said. "All season long we were just holding our breath that we could keep it going. Greyhound bets were up, which they hadn't been in years.

"Not going backwards any more was just a huge thing for us."

Total attendance of 700,256 represented a 2.92 percent improvement.

The Derby Lane poker room eclipsed $9 million in receipts for the first time. The $9,075,454 total was a hike of 5.95 percent.

"We were up a half-million (dollars) in the poker room," Weaver said. "It is very good considering that we probably have more poker competition in this market than any other place except for maybe South Florida.

"The fact that we're able to stay in business and improve against that kind of competition speaks very well for our staff. It's the staff that does all the work, and they're the ones that keep us on the map."

This year the track has guaranteed kennels a minimum of $60 a point in the purse structure that is linked to handle. Weaver said a top project now is to preserve the Derby Plaza building with new roofing and air-conditioning.

"We continue to do the best we can to operate our business under the current economic conditions," he said.

Patriot captured the recent kennel championship in record-breaking fashion. Led by first-year manager-trainer Cal Holland Jr., Patriot won 333 races, crushing the previous six-month mark of 299 by Lester Raines at the 2010 Tampa at Derby Lane meet. It was Patriot's second title. Tiger Boy of McAllister kennel was the top dog with 17 victories. Best times were clocked by Windy Boss of D'Arcy (30.21 seconds at 550 yards) and Magic Finch of Abernathy (37.10 at 660).

Derby Lane gets pleasant surprise as season leaves track in black 07/06/12 [Last modified: Friday, July 6, 2012 8:18pm]
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